Fontana High School, the defending Big 5 Conference football champion, wasn’t supposed to be this good in 1988.
With 18 of Fontana’s 22 starters last season graduating after playing on 2 consecutive league championship teams, surely the other Citrus Belt League teams could look forward to a short reprieve.
But Fontana replaced those 18 starters with 18 guys who have been waiting for their chance to play the past 2 years. And play they have--Fontana is undefeated at 4-0.
“We’ve been lucky,” Fontana Coach Dick Bruich said. “We have a lot of areas we need to improve in, but we’ve made the plays when they have counted.”
A good example, says Bruich, was in Fontana’s game Sept. 23 against St. Paul. Fontana was leading, 17-13, with 50 seconds left, but St. Paul had the ball on Fontana’s 30-yard line. Walter Isaak, a senior defensive back whose been in the shadows until this year, intercepted a pass with 40 seconds left to secure the win for Fontana.
Fontana has shut out three teams this season, and has allowed only 13 points. Does that mean it has a strong defense?
“The guys are big but not that big,” Bruich said. “Most of the bigger guys don’t start.”
Standout offensive player?
“The running game is strong,” Bruich said. “But we don’t have anyone with any stats. With the score at 0-0, we have had nine different guys carry the ball. And nine different players have scored this year.”
Bruich credits Fontana’s sophomore and junior varsity programs. Also, the JV team practices against the varsity players every day.
The last 2 years, however, Bruich had his share of star players.
“In 1986 and 1987 we had Derrick Malone, who is now at the University of New Mexico,” Bruich said.
“Derrick gained 1,200 yards as a junior and 1,900 as a senior. We had Edrian Oliver, who gained over 1,000 yards last year, and is at West Point this year and Curt Bruich, my son, who caught 90 passes in 2 years and he’s now at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. We had these guys for 2 years. And we had different quarterbacks last year.”
This year the faceless Fontana team just wins--something Bruich is used to. He has 107 career victories and 47 shutouts in his 11 seasons at Fontana. His teams have won the league championship 5 times, the Big Five (now Division I) title once, finished in second place 5 times and third place once.
“The kids just play hard, and the coaching staff has been together for a long time which gives the program continuity,” Bruich said. “And we have tradition.”
When Servite’s Derek Brown outgained Crespi’s Russell White Saturday night with 312 yards to White’s 81, it was more of a confirmation that Servite played a better game, not necessarily that Brown is a better running back. Servite won, 35-20.
White, who is a step slower than last season because of an ankle sprain suffered before the season opener, was also slowed by an ineffective offensive line--his longest run was 11 yards. In White’s 3-year varsity career, he has been held to less than 100 yards in only 5 of 30 games--and 2 of those games have been this season.
White also played in Crespi’s defensive secondary most of the game Saturday, demonstrating another Crespi (2-2) downfall--it has more two-way players than Servite (4-0).
“What people tend to forget is that Russell is playing with a bad ankle--he’s playing hurt,” Crespi Coach Bill Redell said. “I don’t think we are a weaker team defensively than Servite, but they were the stronger team in that game.”
Brown’s ability notwithstanding. He set the school’s single-game record Saturday with 37 carries, breaking his own record of 35 set in 1987 vs. St. Bernard. He also holds the school’s single-game record of 338 total yards, which he set as a sophomore in 1986 in a game against Mater Dei.
Brown said last week that he believes he is a better running back than White. Then he backed up his claim. But Brown and his teammates had another reason to win Saturday--to erase the memory of Crespi’s 45-38 victory over Servite in the Big Five quarterfinals at Anaheim last season.
In that game, a healthy White rushed for 251 yards and scored 4 touchdowns, and Brown had 216 yards and 4 touchdowns. The game pitting the best running backs was that one, not the one played Saturday. When it comes to comparisons, it’s a close call.
Byron Scott, who signed a 5-year contract Monday with the Lakers, had an interesting comment when asked what he wants to do upon retirement: Scott said he wants to coach basketball at his alma mater, Morningside High School.
When asked if he was kidding, Scott said, “I’m dead serious.”
Mike Allen of Hacienda Heights Los Altos connected on 13 of 23 passes for 264 yards with 3 touchdowns in a 24-14 win over La Puente Nogales Friday. Los Altos tight end Jason Martin caught 7 passes for 135 yards, with a 58-yard touchdown in that game. . . . Lamont Lovett of Franklin rushed for 5 touchdowns and carried the ball 18 times for 231 yards in a 58-6 win over Hollywood last Friday. . . . Ivan Wilson Jr. of South Gate scored 5 touchdowns in a 37-12 victory over L.A. Jordan.
Carson’s Perry Klein completed 6 of 9 passes for 111 yards and 3 touchdowns, and rushed 3 times for 39 yards in Carson’s 48-16 win Friday over San Pedro. Carson’s Fred Gatlin was 3 for 3 for 71 yards and 1 touchdown. . . . Charles Levy had 361 yards in overall yardage in Lynwood’s 22-20 loss to Dominguez Friday. Levy returned 4 kickoffs for 142 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown. He also had 14 carries, including a 19-yard touchdown and completed 5 passes for 113 yards. . . . Strong safety John Howard had 8 tackles and 4 assists Friday in Hamilton’s 21-8 loss to L.A. University. . . . Fullback Sharn Eff Shah of Dorsey ran for 170 yards in 5 carries for 3 touchdowns, including runs of 94 yards and 53 yards in the Dons’ 72-0 win over Narbonne. Dorsey’s Beno Bryant gained 69 yards in 10 carries, and Derek Armester had 66 yards in 11 carries with 2 touchdowns.
The Los Angeles City section has 5 undefeated teams: University (3-0); Dorsey (3-0); Reseda (3-0); Franklin (3-0) and South Gate (4-0). Dorsey has outscored opponents, 190-0, defeating Los Angeles, 49-0, Eagle Rock, 69-0, and Narbonne, 72-0. South Gate is handling the jump easily from its former 2-A division status to 3-A. Conversely, two other teams who made the jump from 2-A to 3-A are having a tough time: Eagle Rock is 0-3 and has been shut out all 3 games; and Roosevelt (0-4) was strong at the 2-A but weak at 3-A.
TIMES’ PREP POLLS
No. School, LeagueRecord
1. Loyola, Del Rey 4-0-0
2. Long Beach Poly, Moore 3-0-0
3. Servite, Angelus 4-0-0
4. Fontana, Citrus Belt 4-0-0
5. Mission Viejo, South Coast 4-0-0
6. Bishop Amat, Angelus 3-1-0
7. Edison, Sunset 4-0-0
8. Santa Barbara, Channel 4-0-0
9. Eisenhower, Citrus Belt 3-1-0
10. Antelope Valley, Golden 3-1-0
11. Fountain Valley, Sunset 3-1-0
12. Esperanza, Empire 4-0-0
13. Woodbridge, Pacific Coast 4-0-0
14. Colton, Citrus Belt 3-1-0
15. Valencia, Orange 3-0-1
No. School, LeagueRecord
1. Franklin 3-0-0
2. Carson 3-1-0
3. Banning 3-1-0
4. Dorsey 3-0-0
5. University 3-0-0
6. Granada Hills 3-1-0
7. South Gate 4-0-0
8. Reseda 3-0-0
9. San Fernando 2-2-0
10. Crenshaw 2-1-0